3 Women. 2 Horses. 1 Life-Changing Experience.
It has taken me exactly 20 days to write this blog, because I needed that much time to process and digest the emotional gift that was May 26, 2018. Before I tell you about that, however, we need to go back a bit, to September 2017. I will be honest, that was a horrible month. The five years preceding that month were also horrible. I won’t get into all the details, because I’m still not there yet. But I will share that I was sexually assaulted many years ago, that isn’t necessarily new information, me sharing my story (or parts of it) has been imperative in my healing process and my work with the Breaking Free Foundation.
The assault left me with PTSD, as rape often does, and some other side effects that have ultimately led to the demise and diminishing of many relationships and friendships. In September 2017, I finally got my day in court. Getting there was hard, and I will never lie about that, it was very hard. At one point, even my work with Breaking Free Foundation and my friendship with Theo [Fleury] was also attacked.
Again, I’m not ready to share all the details of that day, still feeling handcuffed by the whole experience. But I will be honest in sharing with anyone who is reading this, that that day in court was nearly worse than the assault. I felt battered, sick, empty and I left that very long day without the one thing I still had up until that point—my voice.
It silenced me. And when the #metoo movement started making waves, I was so proud of all of the incredibly brave men and women who were coming out and sharing their stories. But I still felt unable to speak. Still vocally paralyzed.
Recently, my best friend shared a dream she had about me. A dream where she was at my funeral, trying to speak my truth for me because I had not been able to while I was alive. That was so hard to hear, and I was really struggling with this the weeks leading up to May 26th, 2018.
Fast forward. Myself and our Executive Director, Shandra Carlson, were invited by two amazing women, Amy Monea and Angie Payne, to host one a special BFF Meet-up at the Rafter U7 Ranch (a facility where these women host equine therapy sessions, among other things). I was so excited to go! I love animals and horses and I was dying to learn a bit about equine therapy, which I had heard nothing but amazing things about.
Well, nobody came. So “work” was off for Shandra and I, so Amy and Angie asked if we wanted to be treated to the authentic experience and try out a session. OF COURSE, our answers were an enthusiastic YES!
Having Romeo’s eyes on you from the minute we walked into the arena might be worth mentioning? I only say that because of how it impacted me before we ever started. He “had your back” from the very first eye contact.
We started off with pulling oracle cards (or whatever you want to call them)… boom. Here it begins, mine was titled, “Exclaim”. The second line reading, “For a while now, you have been swallowing your personal truth”. I honestly laughed out loud at this, which I truly believe is what most of our Breaking Free family would have done at that moment if they were there because the cards always know!
Angie and Amy co-facilitated a very emotional therapeutic experience for both Shandra and I. When it came time for me to face my demons about the? trial, magic unfolded before our eyes. I won’t give it all away, but the role of my attacker and the system as a whole, was being played by an object in the room for role-playing sakes. Fancy, a beautiful white female horse, strutted towards it and faced it head-on.
She was tall and strong and she didn’t flinch. Even when the dogs started barking like mad right in front of her, trying to throw her off, she just stared at it. She was everything I felt I wasn’t in that moment, and I fell apart. Wow, it was a big moment.
To wrap up the session, Shandra and I were asked to join Fancy and Romeo (a handsome, strong male horse) in the round pen. Angie and Amy instructed us to stand in the middle and just let the horses do what they need to do.
I was facing Shandra, and my back was to the horses so I couldn’t see what was going on, but I could see her face and tears filled her eyes. “Oh my god”, she said. “What!?” I asked.
All I could feel behind me was the two horses suddenly brushing their noses up and down my back, almost like they were comforting me. I think if two animals that big came toward me like that in the wild, I would honestly be a bit frightened, but it was the most soothing and safe experience I’ve ever had. They were gentle, and they just wanted to let me know I was okay. After they finished caressing me, they walked in front of me and just stood there, as if in a protective stance.
Even as I’m writing this now, it’s still emotional to think back to that moment. And trust me, I am not doing it justice right now.
Shandra, by the way, was one of the amazing people from my “other family” (Breaking Free) who were in court to support me that day in September. So it was very meaningful that she got to share this moment with me. Even though I still feel a bit silenced, I got to speak a lot that day and I felt a thousand pounds lighter leaving the ranch.
To the three women, the two horses and the energy in that ranch that day—thank you.
Amy and Angie: you ladies are such a gift. You allowed me to be so vulnerable with you and I felt as if I had known you both my whole life. What an incredible thing you both do and I am so glad I got to experience this type of therapy first-hand.
You can learn more about Amy Monea and Angie Payne’s work at their respective websites: